There are several dialects found within the United States and these dialects are heard in classrooms throughout the country. It is important for acceptance of different dialects to be taught within these classrooms. While it is important to teach with the Standard English dialect, the dialects and language skills that a student possesses when they enter the classroom should not be ignored. Instead, they should be embraced and used to teach about different cultures that are within the classroom and the community. Not only is it important to teach the acceptance of the multitude of dialects, but it is also critical to help students understand why there are different dialects and that we can learn from the different people they come from.
The term dialect is often mis-defined. Many times dialect is confused with accent. The documentary American Tongues defines dialect as “the words we use, and how we pronounce them.” Only a portion of this definition is accurate. This definition confuses dialect and accent. The dictionary defines dialect as “a local form of a language.” When we define accent, we look at the pronunciation of words. Accent is also seen as a way of speaking that shows the speaker’s social identity. On the other hand, dialect is often associated with a particular region or subsection of a larger language community.
When looking at dialects, it is also important to be aware of the differences between Nonstandard English and Standard English dialects. According to Ross Burdette in his article, Developing Language in the Classroom, “the language spoken in schools, media outlets and the government, tends to be what is referred to as ‘Standard English’”. This is what we have come to know as “proper” English. However, while Standard English does attempt to rid itself of language concepts that are associated with the learning of dialects, there are also traces of dialect within it. Nonstandard dialects are seen as being incorrect and “improper.” In the documentary American Tongues, there is an interview with a gentleman who discusses about how he uses his dialect and his accent as an asset within the community he lives in. He reveals that even though his dialect is rejected in areas outside his specific region, within his hometown, his community, and region it is not only accepted but also preferred over other dialects and accents.
It is a popular belief that dialects are corruptions of “real” or “good” English that reflect ignorance of well-known grammar rules. However, that is not the case. According to Walt Wolfram in his article, Everyone Has an Accent, “dialect structures are in themselves quite natural and neutral. Their social impact comes solely from their association with different groups in our society.” Why should teachers teach acceptance of different dialects among the students in their classrooms? Wolfram states in his article that “growing evidence supports the conclusion that respect for and knowledge of a student’s...